Photos & documents detail the minutes leading up to Falls Park drowning

Local News

New court papers in lawsuit against the city of Sioux Falls

Newly filed court papers lay out what happened in the minutes before a little girl drowned at Falls Park. Five-year old Maggie Zaiger fell into the icy water on March 18th, 2018. Her mother, Courtney Jayne, is suing the city of Sioux Falls. She claims the city should have done more to protect her daughter.

Maggie and her mom were visiting from Iowa. Court documents say they went to Falls Park with a group of seven people. There were five kids and two adults.

They noticed something white in the water and weren’t sure what it was. In her deposition, Jayne said it looked like a “ginormous pile of snow.”

The other adult – Cris Melendez- took pictures about two minutes before Maggie drowned. In her deposition, Melendez said she remembered telling the kids it looked like snow, but she couldn’t remember whether that conversation was before or after she took the photos.

One shot shows just how close some of the girls got to the edge of the rocks. The children in the evidence photo were older than Maggie. But according to Sioux Falls Police Detective Timothy Bakke, the 5-year-old was standing in a similar place when she fell in.

An expert witness, hired by the city of Sioux Falls, says the only person who remembers seeing Maggie go into the foam was a 14-year-old boy. The adults told investigators they were about 10-to-15 feet away when it happened.

We went through hundreds of pages of documents and there appear to be two main questions in this case.

First of all, should foam be considered a “hazard” and should the city do more to protect the public? For instance, should warning signs around Falls Park specifically mention the foam?

Secondly, did Maggie have adequate supervision? Attorneys for the city are asking whether the adults should have been more cautious near the water.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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